Soul Singer Allen Stone on Leaving the Church & Finding Happiness

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On the Los Cabos stop of his world tour, soul sensation Allen Stone took a few minutes to chat with Out at the rooftop pool of Hotel El Ganzo, the no-kids-allowed boutique property with a recording studio accessible only through a trap door in the hip hotel’s lobby. After some small talk about traveling (“I was in the ocean in February. I come from the northwest, and you don’t do that. You don’t get into the ocean ever where I’m from!”) and the four songs he’d already started writing since arriving a few days earlier, the 28-year-old from Chewelah, Washington shed some light on his upbringing, its influence on his music, and the similar experiences he shares with LGBT fans. 

Stone began his music career as a worship leader at his father’s church before going away to study at a Christian school at age 18. After only a year there, the preacher’s son with a voice that would eventually land him TV appearances with the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and Conan O’Brien had a life-changing realization—he didn’t really believe the religion that had been such an integral part of his life and relationships, and he knew that telling his parents would be painful.

“They would feel like they failed, and spend a lot of time contemplating the first 19 years of my life. ‘What did we do? What happened? How did we not instill in him this thing that is so important and central to our belief system and the world around us?’”

It’s a struggle strikingly similar to the one so many LGBT people have faced before coming out—potentially devastating the people whose love means the most or an inauthentic lifetime of internal conflict and lies. For Stone, there was no option but to be true, and his approach was much the same as his music—casual and chill with a calculated purpose.

“I kind of laissez-faired it. Like a finger roll instead of a slam dunk.”

“It’s an ever-evolving coming out party for me. I think that evangelical and religious mindsets always believe that their sheep will come back into the fold eventually, so it takes a consistent reminder to my family that I’m good. But there wasn’t like a ‘stand on my pulpit and preach thing.’ Part of what drew me away from church was the central belief that every other person’s perspective was wrong. There was no room for belief in any other worldview outside of this corporate mandate, and I didn’t want to do that same thing once I got outside of the church. That doesn’t ever feel like a positive way toward communication. It creates a division.”

And it seems he was right. Stone has been involved in high-profile collaborations, racked up millions of YouTube views, and found the adoration of fans worldwide after he took his life in a new direction, but he never lost the support of his family.

“My folks see that the majority of what I do is very positive and uplifting. The core base of any major religion is pretty much the same thing: Show love, and love the creator of all of this. Whatever that is. I pretty much have that same viewpoint. What other people might call God, I call the universe. I think if you get down to that basic level, you can appreciate everyone’s perspective on the world around you.”

And that’s the driving force behind his music, plenty of which centers around sociopolitical topics that Stone feels need more attention.

“I think we’re put on this earth to feel good. I don’t think suffering should happen. I don’t think it needs to happen. Obviously there are catastrophic things that are out of our control, but I believe that being happy should be the majority of your life. I write a lot when I’m angry at a social injustice that isn’t being talked about enough, but other than that I just want people to feel nice and enjoy life. That’s my agenda. To make them feel better, and to make them think.”

“I think my parents are very supportive of what I do.”

And so are his obsessive fans. Stone’s next stops are San Francisco and Honolulu, but he’s soon to be found across the world from Australia to Sweden and dozens of places between, before finishing off at Bonnaroo in June.

For tour dates, visit AllenStone.com. You can also follow writer Brandon Schultz on Twitter and Instagram.

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